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Volvo and Aurora Innovation present a self-driving truck for public roads

A new self-driving truck, the result of a collaboration between Volvo and Aurora Innovation, is scheduled to hit public roads this summer. The Volvo VNL Autonomous truck was unveiled at the ACT Expo in Las Vegas and is expected to begin hauling goods in the coming months. While the trucks will be in autonomous mode, a human safety operator will remain behind the wheel, ready to take control if necessary.

Later this year, Aurora plans to announce pilot programs with customers who will use the Volvo VNL autonomous truck. Volvo has already begun manufacturing an initial test fleet of these autonomous trucks at its New River Valley assembly facility in Virginia. The move aligns with Aurora's goal of commercializing self-driving trucks by the end of 2024.

Initially, the company aims to transport goods between Dallas and Houston using up to 20 driverless Class 8 trucks, this time without a human behind the wheel. It is not yet clear whether trucks made by Volvo, or Aurora's other partner Paccar, will be part of this inaugural driverless fleet.

The journey to commercialization is crucial for Aurora, one of the remaining self-driving truck companies, especially after Waymo Via halted its self-driving truck program and TuSimple pulled out of the U.S. market. Aurora has also faced the high costs of developing and launching commercial autonomous trucks, leading to a 3% workforce reduction earlier this year.

The partnership with Volvo, established in March 2021, is part of Aurora's marketing strategy. Aurora has also started pilot programs with logistics companies FedEx, Ryder, Schneider and Uber Freight. In January, Aurora and auto supplier Continental completed the first phase of a project worth more than $300 million to mass-produce autonomous vehicle hardware for self-driving commercial trucks.

The Volvo VNL Autonomous truck features safety features including redundant steering, braking, communication, computing, energy management, energy storage and vehicle motion management systems. It also integrates the Aurora Driver, an autonomous driving system that includes dual computers, self-driving software, internal lidar, high-resolution cameras and imaging radar.

Once the platform is validated, Aurora and Volvo plan to begin fully driverless operations with a fleet of modest-sized trucks, with high-volume production expected to begin in the coming years.


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